The Value of Wearing Two Hats

Every day in business, I wear two hats (metaphorically of course).  The first hat is in the agency world as the Chief Marketing Officer at Rockfish.  The second hat is in the start-up investor world, both as the co-founder of The Brandery and as a partner at Brand Ventures.  While these two professions have more differences than similarities, I know I am better at both jobs because of the other.

On the agency side, each day is spent uncovering the marketing and business pain points of our clients.  These pain points create opportunities which start up companies can capitalize on by providing the solution.  As an investor, I often have one of the first opportunities to evaluate the start-ups that are looking to provide that solution.  Well before they hit the pages of Mashable or the New York Times, many of these start-ups are pitching investors.  In the investment world, venture firms often talk about “proprietary deal flow” where they get a first look at investment opportunities.  In much the same way, being involved directly in the start-up investment space gives Rockfish proprietary deal flow to bring digital innovation to our clients.

Being a practitioner in the world of marketing helps me be a subject matter expert when it comes to brand marketing.  In turn, I become more valuable as an investor because of the subject matter expertise I can bring to start-ups.  And ultimately, the value comes full circle as I can better help the digital innovation strategy of my clients to identify opportunities.

Wearing two hats in your professional life definitely requires double the work.  But at the same time, the return you get for both jobs clearly proves the old saying of “one plus one equals three.”

Happy #LeapDay

February 29th might be known as Leap Day every 4 years, but today it takes on another meaning with the launch of Leap for the iPhone.  As a graduate of The Brandery in 2011, Leap is a pretty remarkable company.  They entered the program as Wellthy, but ended up pivoting midway through.  Today that pivot comes to life and I couldn’t be more excited for what the team has accomplished.

So what is Leap exactly?

Leap lets you create challenges with your friends and compete by snapping photos and earning points.  Whatever your interests are, there is a challenge that you can create on Leap to help you reach your goals, motivate your friends to try new things, eat healthier meals, or get the most out of your Friday night.  Leap comes with filled with fun challenges from Hipster Hunt, where you compete by snapping photos of hipsters in your city, to Breakfast Champion, a simple challenge to make sure you eat the most important meal of the day.

Congrats to James Dickerson, Ryan Tinker and Nick Cramer, the three co-founders of Leap.  Be sure to head over to the App Store to download Leap and wish them a happy #leapday on Twitter.

We’re hosting Brandery Office Hours at SXSW

Ever since Twitter received a much needed boost in visibility at the festival, SXSW Interactive has become an annual launching pad for aspiring startups.  This year, The Brandery has decided to join in the fun as we host our first-ever “Office Hours” at this year’s SXSW.  At Office Hours, we wanted to give potential applicants the opportunity to meet many of the folks that make The Brandery a top 10 startup accelerator.  Since our mentors and partners are from across the country, SXSW is the perfect venue to come together in one place and host this type of event.

Thus on Sunday Afternoon of SXSW Interactive, we are going to host Office Hours at the #SxCincyHaus.  This is a chance for us to meet face to face with the companies who are applying to The Brandery.  Last year over three quarters of our companies relocated to Cincinnati for The Brandery so we know how important it is for founders to feel comfortable with the program.  To help with that, we will have our mentors, as well as past graduates at Office Hours to answer any and all questions that founders might have.  We will also share some of the things that make The Brandery unique, especially our thematic approach around design and marketing, as well as our corporate partnerships with leading marketers like Procter & Gamble.

We hope to see you there.

  • WHO:  Startup Founders & Entrepreneurs who want to apply to The Brandery
  • WHEN: Sunday, March 11 from 2 – 4 PM CST
  • WHERE: #SxCincyHaus at 711 San Antonio St, Austin TX
  • WHAT: Register at

The Brandery appears on the nightly news [video]

This week The Brandery received some nice news coverage courtesy of local ABC affiliate WCPO.   The coverage came in parallel to a press conference by former Sequoia Capital VC Mark Kvamme who recently served as the Director of the Ohio Department of Development.   The coverage revolved around the effort by The Brandery to create high growth jobs through Consumer Internet startups.



If the above video doesn’t work, you can see the video at

The Brandery joins the TechStars Network

Note: I had meant to post this news a few weeks ago but somehow it ended up stuck in my draft folder.

The Brandery is now a member of the TechStars Network, a newly launched White House-sponsored alliance of independently owned and operated startup accelerator programs from dozens of cities across the United States and around the world.

The TechStars Network is comprised of other startup accelerator programs similar to The Brandery that provide seed funding and mentorship to innovative entrepreneurs. The Brandery will collaborate with these organizations and learn best practices from the mentorship-driven model pioneered by TechStars, the leading startup accelerator program in the United States.

As a member of the TechStars Network, The Brandery will have access to a rich set of strategic resources including professional development and ongoing support to effectively lead and mentor innovative entrepreneurs in Cincinnati.

The TechStars Network is part of the Startup America initiative, launched today by President Obama. In partnership with the White House, the goal of the TechStars Network is to become an engine for job growth by ensuring that over the next four years, 5,000 experienced business leaders and investors will mentor and support 6,000 promising young entrepreneurs. The aim is to increase the success rate and sustainability of each program, and to ultimately create 25,000 new economy jobs by 2015.

“We are pleased to have The Brandery join the TechStars Network,” said David Cohen, founder and CEO of TechStars. “The TechStars Network signals and formalizes our support for credible mentorship-driven programs like The Brandery. We believe the proliferation of the mentorship-driven accelerator model is healthy for entrepreneurs. Through this network of independent organizations, we can help increase their impact dramatically and make entrepreneurial communities the real winners.”

Brandery co-founder David Knox said the network provides a terrific opportunity to expand the reach and resources of Cincinnati’s consumer-marketing-oriented accelerator.

“For our first class last summer, more than 70 companies applied from 15 states, and three of the six we accepted moved here from outside our region,” said Knox. “This network will offer visibility that will help us continue to provide Cincinnati with a net gain of entrepreneurs.”

Also, Knox said, “with TechStars Network’s rich set of strategic resources, we will build stronger companies faster.”

The application period for Brandery Class 2 begins April 1. More information will be available at

The Brandery joins a select group of invitation-only TechStars Network members in major cities across the United States and around the world. Today the network is open to all entrepreneurial thought leaders and organizations interested in building or enhancing mentorship-driven startup accelerator programs.